Bedeviled by Rest of ACC, Terps in Blue Heaven vs. Rival

Chris McCray
The ability of Maryland guard Chris McCray, right, to defend Duke's J.J. Redick is a big reason for the Terps' three-game winning streak over the Blue Devils. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When Duke's Lee Melchionni examined game tape of Maryland, he studied tendencies of players but ignored specific results because he knew what the Blue Devils would see tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium: the Terrapins at their very best.

Over the past 22 months, Maryland is a combined 0-5 against Clemson and Miami, two programs that are national afterthoughts. But during that same span, the Terps have dominated Duke as much as any program could dream, winning all three meetings.

"You can't explain it sometimes why you play well against some teams and not against other teams," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "I think we've really hit it sometimes when we've played against Duke. We've played probably the best we can play."

Maryland has beaten Duke at home, on the road, on a neutral court.

The team beat Duke in 2004, when Maryland failed to make it out of the second round of the NCAA tournament and the Blue Devils reached the Final Four. It twice beat Duke in 2005, when Maryland failed to reach the NCAA tournament and the Blue Devils earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.

Since March 14, 2004, when Maryland earned a 95-87 overtime victory against Duke in the ACC tournament final, the Terps have won just six of 17 games against ACC teams other than the Blue Devils. Conversely, since that ACC tournament loss, Duke is 16-3 against ACC teams other than Maryland but winless against the Terps.

No ACC team has won three straight against Duke since North Carolina won seven straight and Wake Forest won nine in a row in the mid-1990s. Even during Maryland's most successful seasons, when the Terps reached consecutive Final Fours and won the 2002 national title, they were 2-4 against Duke.

"They are not intimidated of us; they are not scared of us," Melchionni said. "It's a reflection of their coach: He is very intense, and they carry that on the floor. Coming into Cameron can be a scary place to play, and you just don't sense that with those guys."

The Terrapins' tendency to play to the level of competition has been as much a flaw as a strength. They admitted to not playing with maximum effort after several losses last season, and Williams said a lack of effort was one reason for the surprising 84-70 loss at Miami on Saturday.

There is no shortage of motivation tonight for the 23rd-ranked Terrapins (11-3, 1-1 ACC). Three weeks ago, Nik Caner-Medley said he hoped Maryland would have the chance to hand the top-ranked Duke (14-0, 2-0) their first loss.

"Normally when we play a team, they play better against us than most people. It just happens," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It's a celebrated game. Kids from other schools think, 'We get a chance to beat Duke.' . . . We have teams that come in here and think that they can win. They want that environment and look at it in that sense. Maryland has certainly done that."

The Maryland player who most embodied that sentiment is no longer with the team. Former point guard John Gilchrist may have disrupted team chemistry, but he averaged 18 points in the past three victories over Duke and brought a toughness and swagger into big games.

"John liked that" big stage, Williams said. "You need guys like that, that come to play."

Another key has been the defense of Maryland's Chris McCray, who for the better part of 78 minutes shadowed Duke all-American J.J. Redick in last season's two victories. McCray helped force Redick into making a combined 12 of 40 field goal attempts.

Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser, whose Demon Deacons lost to Duke on Sunday, opted at times to double-team Redick and got burned. The senior still scored 32 points, and the extra attention opened up shots for his teammates, Sean Dockery and Melchionni, who combined to make seven three-pointers.

That Maryland possesses a player who is capable of spending a night snaking around screens is a significant bonus because Melchionni said Redick is in "marathon-runner shape."

"You try to limit his touches, but they screen for him so well," Prosser said. "He has a seemingly endless reserve of energy. He plays 35-40 minutes a night, is constantly in motion, sort of Reggie Miller-ish, if you will."

Very little evidence this season suggests Maryland has a strong chance tonight, which probably means the Terps are in prime position.

"We know we can" win there, Williams said. "But that's not going to help us in terms of the scoreboard."

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